Tumblr has always been the intellectual safe haven on the internet, not lowering itself to the childish level of insulting its users with the censorship bullshit of Facebook or Instagram. Have we not long ago abandoned the notion of “if we don’t show them they wont find it?” It had seemed before yesterday that at least Tumblr had.
Tumblr was the social networking site that treated you like the adult you are. If you want to look at celebrity content, you fill your feed with celebrity content; conversely if you wanted to look at erotic art, porn, or politics, they were all treated the same. There was no judgement. Content was content, and you had access to it all; and best of all Tumblr let you monitor yourself rather than treating you like a child and hiding the content.
Tumblr created a social network site that brought social networking into a "choose your own adventure” format. It respected that you would find the content that interested you, and you would stay away from that which offended you. It took life’s perspective of: all is available, be who you are, and stay away from what you don’t like. It was a liberating breath of fresh air in the stuffy corporate driven social networking world.
Unfortunately Tumblr changed its story a yesterday. The new “Adult” and “NSFW” flagging that you can elect to add to your blog, or Tumblr will add for you, changes 2 major things, but both result in banishing any questionably nude content to dark basements of Tumblr.
1. Any blog with “NSFW” or “Adult” tag are not searchable by search engines anymore.
One of the greatest things about tumblr that brought me to tumblr was that I could shoot all the obscure fun cameras Ive always loved, and my tags could be searched and therefore bring other people to my blog who also shot those cameras or wanted to learn more about them. You could find people’s content, their art, their thoughts, or just a good old fashion internet friend by what they tagged and how they posted.
With this new restriction NOTHING ON YOUR TUMBLR, if flagged, IS SEARCHABLE. That SUCKS. To decide that a minor part of anatomy such as a nipple should result in a blog being no longer searchable is saying that the outdated understandings of nudity supersede ALL other aspects of a blog. If you’re a political blog writing about human rights and you have nudity on your page, you’re treated the same as a Tumblr dedicated to the most hardcore of porn.
For a nipple, or breast, or penis or vagina to be so scandalous that you’re going to throw out all the blogs that don’t subscribe to this outdated shameful understanding of the human body is sellout move to allow Tumblr to enter the vanilla safe realm of the other Social Media titans. This act, although seemingly a compromise, really is a cowards turning of the back. To not delete the blogs and the content, yes that’s a plus, but to make it not searchable publicly is Tumblr denouncing nudity to the dark corners of its once open air social media salvation.
2. All content in your blog is also not even searchable in Tumblr once flagged.
The first point to me was bad enough but the second step to me seems almost more offensive and insulting to the Tumblr community. By not allowing users to be able to decide they want to look for adult content and then search it out effectively means that by leaving the content up on tumblr, but blocking it off, you’ve severed off an arm but are declaring “at least I didn’t throw it away.” If content cant be searched on tumblr, and the content cant be searched by search engines, then how exactly can one find your content on tumblr if you be branded with the scarlet letters of “NSFW”? This answer is, you can’t!!
If you were an aspiring figure drawer, painter, artist, model or really anything that wanted to explore your art without the confines of an anachronistic understanding of the human body seeking refuge in the blue safe haven of Tumblr, yesterday Tumblr has said to you “find a new place.” The founder of Tumblr went on the Colbert Report the other night and stated that freedom of speech is very important to tumblr and he didnt want to be policing tumblr looking for Lady Gaga’s nipple. This move, however, effectively is the technological equivalent of saying “yes you can still have your free speach, but only in that basement with no windows, doors, phones, or means of contact.” This change is allowing freedom of speach but removing freedom of press. You’re allowed to say whatever you want, but Tumblr is no longer going to allowing anyone to listen, nor allow anyone to find you.
Now I get it your saying, “well there was too much porn on Tumblr. They had to do something.” But I counter with, do you think this is going to hurt porn? Porn blogs will pop up in new places, but what about the art blogs? What about the political blogs? What about, as the founder of tumblr mentioned on the Colbert Report photographers looking to share their art? They are cut off. The magical baby that was Tumblr’s open social network is getting thrown out with the political bathwater. This cart blanche approach is too black and white, and really an awful move demonstrating an shotgun approach to a situation better suited for careful hands and a delicate scalpel.
Personally the worst part about all of this is a turn back in what I saw as a rising watermark in the cultural/social understanding of censorship, body awareness and sexuality. Tumblr stood tall and stated, “Yes all of this is part of the human experience like it or not!”
I get that tumblr had to do something about hardcore porn, there needed to a way for users to elect to not see such content. But that’s just it, they should have respected the users ability to ELECT to turn on a filter. To force the removal of content form Dashboards, to then go further by making it not searchable in Tumblr, and then even further to remove it from search engines means that Tumblr is not respecting the NSFW community. They are abandoning them, but leaving them with a place to ride out their existence.
I know that all in all this sounds a bit dramatic, but for me it is legitimately a disappointment that society was able to impose such an absurd understanding of the human body onto the internet. The land built by those that wanted to question everything. The digital pirates that wanted to seek out and create new content. Who would have thought that Disney morals could find a foot hold here.
Tumblr brought me back into photography, and with not an ounce of exaggeration, changed my life 100%. The art I found on Tumblr, and the artists that Tumblr brought me in contact with changed how I see myself, the path my life has taken, the friends I’ve made and my values. To think that Tumblr has turned its back on any and all blogs searching to do any of the above with an exploration of the human body included, for me, means Tumblr has failed its promise of advance society. Trading its social potential for a paycheck and stepping in line with a morality based in the cold war.
As Tumblr has always been extremely receptive to its users and had amazing customer service, I hope that they re-consider. I hope that Tumblr decides that by going this path of cutting off any challenging content Tumblr will forever limit the site to only perpetuate the status quo, which in my opinion, and I think is quoted in a movie, “treading water is preparing to die.”
Tumblr be better than the rest. Be dynamic. Be creative. Be an adult and show the rest of the social network world that they can be too.